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The Anger of a Great Nation: An Analysis of Operation Vigilant Resolve

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Master's thesis

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In the morning hours of Wednesday, 31 March 2004, four American private security contractors were ambushed and killed by insurgents while driving through the city of Fallujah, Iraq. By the end of the day, the United States and the rest of the world would see these grisly images along with the now infamous images of two dismembered and charred corpses hanging upside down from a bridge over the Euphrates River in western Fallujah. What followed was Operation VIGILANT RESOLVE a battle for control of Fallujah-in which U.S. Marines saw urban combat with a level of intensity not seen since the battle of Hue City in 1968. Against the recommendation of their commander for a more patient and deliberate approach to pacifying Fallujah, the Marines of the I Marine Expeditionary Force were ordered to conduct VIGILANT RESOLVE in response to the killings of the Blackwater contractors. With the advice of Secretary of Defense, Donald H. Rumsfeld, and head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, President George W. Bush wanted to respond to the Blackwater ambush with a show of force to demonstrate that the United States would not tolerate attacks, such as that of 31 March. Just days after the operation commenced with heavy fighting, -. representatives of U.S. policy in Baghdad came under unexpected criticism and political-pressure from members of the interim Iraqi government and the British government. With the 1 July return of Iraqi sovereignty in jeopardy, the United States aborted the operation and ordered a halt to offensive operations only five days into an operation expected to last three to four weeks. Although coalition forces had begun to see success and were on course to accomplish their mission, none of the operations objectives were accomplished when the assault was halted.

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  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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